This week I joined almost 600 others in a service to celebrate and remember the life of Alun Emlyn-Jones, who died a few weeks ago aged 94. The huge numbers at this service demonstrate the importance and significance of the contribution that Alun made to public life in Cardiff and well beyond.
Alun was a lifelong Liberal and came from a Liberal family. His father was a Liberal MP and he recalled a childhood home where Lloyd George came for dinner. In later years his father owned and ran the Cardiff shipping company Emlyn-Jones Griffin and Co Ltd.
After playing a distinguished part in Second World War, in the RAF, Alun himself became a Liberal candidate, standing for Parliament on three occasions. In 1950 he stood for Barry, which at that time included villages as far afield as Dinas Powys, Whitchurch, Radyr, and Rhiwbina. He came third but he had caught the political bug, and went on to stand again on two occasions.
In 1957 he stood in a nationally significant by-election in North Dorset, which was a tight contest between Liberals and Tories. Alun was only 3,000 votes behind the Tory and therefore keen to fight again in North Dorset. He did so in the General Election of 1959, but was disappointed that he fell back to a more distant second place. As well as abandoning hopes of a political career at this time, Alun also stood down as President of the National League of Young Liberals. Years ago he gave me one of his 1957 election leaflets and I treasure it among my Liberal memorabilia. He remained engaged with the Party and in the 1970s and early 1980s he sustained us by loaning us an office, at a time when we had no councillors and absolutely no money.
Alun truly lived his Liberalism, and put his principles into practice in a host of ways. He led the Cardiff District Council on Alcoholism from its start. Along with other volunteers, in the 1960s he set up Dyfrig House in Riverside, Cardiff, as a hostel for alcoholics. Later this was followed by Emlyn House in Newport and other similar accommodation in other parts of South Wales. For this work he received an OBE and was involved in this hugely challenging field for 43 years.
He was Chairman of the Cardiff and District Branch of the NSPCC for many years and from 1957 he was a Cardiff Magistrate. In 1983 Alun was elected as Chairman of the Bench, a position he held until 1990. As one of his fellow JPs I can vouch for the high esteem in which he was held and the real respect and affection we had for him. He modernised and transformed the way in which we worked and created an atmosphere where we all felt we were valued members of a strong team.
The story of Alun’s life is impressive, but it does not really give you the essence of the man. He was unfailingly kind, courteous, thoughtful and a gifted orator. Despite the serious work he undertook, he had a lively sense of humour: evidence of this was his prized 1937 Morris 8 with its “EGO 33” number plate. Although he moved on from political campaigning, he was still helping to deliver Focus when he was 90. His liberal principles of openness, tolerance, and respect for individual difference remained as important to him at 94 as they were when he was young.